May is here, and with it comes signs of the wet season on Florida Bay. Temperatures are rising, the summer rain machine is building, and we are collectively sighing in relief on Florida Bay. We made it out of this dry season alive. Salinity levels on Florida Bay are at a record low and there are no signs of seagrass die-off or destruction, this time.
With the great deluge of the Everglades coming, we are relieved at the relative health of the bay, but that does not mean that all is well in the greater Everglades.
The rain kept hypersalinity at bay this year in the southern estuary, but that excess rain in combination with pollution and nutrient runoff into the lake has created a toxic situation for communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee. To be more accurate, a massive cyanobacteria or blue-green algae bloom that is three times more toxic than safe levels is growing with no signs of stopping.
For many communities around the lake, this story is like Groundhog’s Day of summer’s past where green, toxic water has been discharged by the US Army Corps of Engineers to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee. As the rains increase with the season, lake levels rise and increase the likelihood that these communities will feel the fallout of environmental collapse, public health impacts, and lagging tourism dollars due to toxic sludge in their backyards.
This recurring problem may seem ‘off the rocks’ and far away from our woes on Florida Bay, but a major part of the solution can be found in our rallying cry, “Send Clean Water South”.
How do we lower lake levels without discharging water to the estuaries? Send the water south.
How do we clean the toxic water laden with cyanobacteria? Send the water south.
How do we hydrate Everglades National Park and Florida Bay? Send the water south.
There are still grave issues regarding water quality and the pollution entering Lake Okeechobee from its headwaters that need to be addressed. This is another facet to the water woes of the north. Yet, our three estuaries can heal and benefit from storing, cleaning, and conveying water south of the the Lake to Everglades National Park.
We stand with our neighbors to the north and will continue our calls to send water south. For Florida Bay, for the greater Everglades, and for all of us who are blessed to call this amazing estuary home.
Join us as we double down on our commitment and investment in restoration today.